Saturday, January 27, 2018
The train system in Athens seems okay to me. I don’t know if it solves the locals’ transportation needs but it has allowed me to get from Piraeus (the port) to Athens centre very conveniently these past few weeks.
Tickets are inexpensive, but the gates controlling access are never closed and nobody seems to care if you pay a fare or not. Of course there are lots of signs highlighting the penalty for not paying, but it seems few pay based on my limited experience with the system.
Today I took the train to the centre of Athens again. The voltage generator that I ordered was in and I needed to pick it up. I decided to take another tour of the Acropolis and see if anything had changed in the last few weeks. Nope. It’s the same. Well, not completely, because I visited some area that I didn’t see on my last visit. Particularly the North Slope. The actual springs and shrines were closed to visitors, but reading about some of the important aspects of this area was helpful (particularly the springs and the various ‘rustic’ sanctuaries/shrines that were little more than caves, but important shrines to gods and nymphs). It would have been nice to get into the area, but I suppose there just isn’t enough traffic to justify the people required to take tickets, monitor, etc. Also it was really cold and windy on the North Slope (in the shadow of the mountain).
Here are a few pictures.
But back to P-Man. I have commented on the tough times in Greece. I have been noting the various artifacts of extreme financial conditions over the past five months or so, and will write a post in the future about the economics of the whole situation (for those that don’t read the Economist or other, more reputable publications).
The point I would like to bring to the forefront is one regarding the extreme poverty that is apparent in the city. There are a variety of people living on the street, many very close to the Marina, and even more in corners of buildings in Central Athens. They are everywhere and unlike some cities (like Toronto) they are easy to see begging, sleeping and riding the trains.
On every ride on the train I have seen someone who is clearly in financial distress. Sometimes an immigrant, but mostly (apparently, but I can’t be sure), a citizen of Greece. Often they climb into a car, tout what I think are prayers and solicitations, then move through the car looking for a few Euros. Often they are successful in getting one or two coins. Just as often, if not more often, one of these folks is just riding the train, probably to stay warm.
Today, and not for the first time, a gentleman came into the car, and about two minutes later people started to clear out. As the train began moving it was obvious why, he had a strong scent of urine, and didn’t seem to be upset or even self-conscious about it. windows went down, people moved to other spaces and that is P-man. While that was bad, earlier this week a far more difficult one was the lady who boarded the train with four or five very rowdy and uncontrolled children. She was clearly from the Indian continent, and the smell of Indian food (garlic perhaps) was far, far worse and cleared half a car during rush hour. It is almost comical if not mostly tragic comedy.
One day I will put the big lens on the camera and take pictures of some of the regulars (modestly, from a distance). I can see them daily in some cases, in various levels of capability and distress. Some look like its just a job that they go to daily, and others clearly live on the street. Seeing the men and women parading their children while they beg is particularly hard to watch, but is very, very common here.
A regular who lives somewhere near to the marina moves up and down the street overlooking Marina Zea. He is a very good looking gentleman, probably 55 or 60 years old. He speaks well (I can’t understand what he says, but I see him talking to others all the time in pleasant conversation), he has a very well kept grocery cart, where he picks up cans for recycling, and he has two dogs that stick with him day and night. Of course he is well worn from being outside, but I wonder what happens to a person like that to put them on the street and prevent them from participating in society the way the rest of us know it.
Finally I would like the young readers (do any of you still read this stuff, or has this become a personal diary/log?), please note that 61% of Americans can’t cover a $1,000 emergency expense. I have seen this kind of poverty first hand in the US, and I know it exists in Canada, although it is somewhat harder to spot (solely due to the climate). During good times you can typically rely on others; the ‘system’, friends, family to come up with something to keep you off the streets, but when times are tough, those same safety nets begin to disappear faster than anyone imagines. Please, make sure you have a personal safety net so that you have time to make decisions should you ever hit on difficult times. The time to do that is now, when times are great and everyone thinks they will go on forever. That’s usually one of the best signs of a ‘top’ in asset prices, incomes, economic well being. It never lasts.
As for living a life of desperation, there is an old refrain, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. Another sentiment goes like this: “God helps those who help themselves”. If we take God out of the sentiment, be smart, save some money for a rainy day.
[I am editing this a bit. Replace God with ‘good planning’ and try those sentences again.
There but for the grace of good planning, go I.
Good planning helps those who help themselves.
if there were a God that was concerned with starvation, the world wouldn’t have so many starving people when times are great (as they are now, by historical standards). Don’t depend on fate to feed yourself or your family. 😳]